Meanwhile, in the Big Easy

NCIS (Screen:

NCIS: NOLA — CBS back-door’s its latest acronymtastic cop procedural and my eyes did not roll.

How I honestly expected this two-part backdoor pilot for the fall’s expected NCIS:NOLA spinoff would begin:

Interior: NCIS OFFICES. A phone rings. A hand snatches it from the cradle. Pan up following the receiver to see LEROY JETHRO GIBBS answering.

GIBBS: Yeah? Uh huh. Uh huh. (beat) See you soon.

GIBBS hangs up and grabs his jacket from his chair in one smooth motion as he heads for the door.

GIBBS: Grab your things, we’ve got a case.

MCGEE and BISHOP exchange a look of surprise and then both scramble to grab their things, because they have a case.

MCGEE: (hurriedly, as he and BISHOP make it into the elevator to flank GIBBS) Uh, where are we going, boss?

GIBBS: (with that little half smile) You’ll see when we get there.

Smash cut to BOURBON STREET.


How things actually began:

Oh, I love me a good retcon. Some thirty years ago – you know, before Gibbs was a member of NCIS – he was friends with one Dwayne Cassius Pride, known to his friends and lovers as ‘King’ and played with restrained accent and proper world-weariness by Count Bakula himself. King and Chris Lasalle (Lucas Black, who I keep forgetting is around, and good) are the entirety of NCIS’s Crescent City (i.e. New Orleans) field office and they’ve just caught a case involving a washed-up (literally) Congressman and ex-NIS agent who, along with Mike Franks, mentored Gibbs and Pride and (along with, mathematically, one other person) formed the Fed Five, a fabulous group of NIS agents who stopped a serial killer who targeted military and public servants.1

Except that maybe they caught the wrong guy back then. Or at least a brutal copycat has been continuing with the stabbing and the cutting and oh the murder for a number of years with no one noticing. Look, I dropped NCIS years ago when the cute character interactions overwhelmed anything crime related, but I watched because the crimes happened and got solved by non-annoying characters.2 So, frankly, I didn’t care about the substance of this episode as long as it was watchable. To wit:

  1. Use character tropes, not cliches. Corollary: use actors that know the value of restraint whilst delivering lines that will never win anyone an Emmy.
  2. Don’t get so serious. Like, be original flavor CSI, not CSI:NY.
  3. Have some pride in your appearance. Despite the oddly dim3 first few minutes, the show looks pretty good. I mean, it’s hard to shoot in New Orleans and not look good, so well done on not tripping over your camera cable, show!

Measured by these standards of not needing to be good but just avoid being bad4 this episode of NCIS was a resounding success. It gets juiced by Agent Meredith Brody’s (Zoe McLellan) transfer into Crescent City because, quite simply, Brody is currently the most believable and not at all annoying female agent on all of CBS’s lineup. Plus – and this was good – she comes with a bonus retcon suggesting she and Gibbs worked on something Super Secret, possibly Long Ago.


Will I keep watching?

Oh, you had me at ‘Scott Bakula is starring in an NCIS spinoff set in New Orleans, and Lucas Black and CCH Pounder are also involved, plus the female agent seems quite capable and not irritating.’ I’ll watch part 2 next week, no question, and then decide if this is replacing any of the should-have-stopped-a-while-ago procedurals in my queue.

The real question is whether I’ll delight in this show the way I giddily watched all but the last three minutes5 of almost every CSI:Miami. Oh be quiet, you liked it too. Caruso!

  1. If you haven’t watched enough NCIS to know these names (roughly four episodes, picked at random, should do you), why are you reading this article? No, really, I’m quite curious. It’s for a study. Yes I have the paperwork somewhere around here.  
  2. I also watched it a lot more back when I worked for the Navy, and my housemate/co-worker would watch with me and splutter at the TV that government offices are never that pretty.  
  3. Was that a filter? Was it for aesthetic reasons? If so, which aesthetic?  
  4. I don’t watch CBS. I mock CBS. Most of it is bad. It’s managed to take a formula and make at least one thing per episode downright annoying or laughable.  
  5. Hour long dramas do not need music videos and if you say otherwise I will cut you with this fork.  

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